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Stories Jesus Told - Part 1: “Great Mistakes”:
Is Your Ladder Against the Wrong Wall?
Expert bible teacher, John Ortberg tells the story of a successful businessman. He worked 14 hours a day, even on weekends. He thought the 40-hour work week was such a good idea he would often do it twice a week. His goal was to be the best businessman he could be. Even when he wasn’t at work, his mind drifted toward his work so that it was not only his occupation, it was his preoccupation.
His wife tried to get him to slow down. She knew that they weren’t as close as they used to be. But because of his work, he hardly ever gave her any time. He gave at the office.
In the back of his mind, he knew that his kids were growing up, and he was missing it. His kids complained about the ballgames he missed, the meals around the table he missed, the school concerts he missed. After a while, they stopped complaining because they figured he was never going to change.
The businessman told himself, “I’ll be able to spend more time with them when things settle down. Besides, they will have a nice house and nice clothes and cool video games because of my job! Everything I do, I do for them!” Deep down, he knew that he would be living this way even if he didn’t have kids. But it made him feel better to say it anyway.
He also knew he wasn’t taking care of himself the way he should. His doctor told him he had some serious warning signs-high blood pressure, high cholesterol. The doctor told him to cut back on the sweets and the fast food.
But instead, the businessman stopped going to the doctor. He said; “There will be plenty of time for that when things settle down.”
His wife tried to get him to attend church. But he said “Sunday is the one day I get to crash! It’s the one day I get to sleep in! I don’t have room in my life for God and the church. There will be plenty of time for that when things settle down.”
One day, the president of the company said “We have a new account with the Kohler company! We’re going to be rich! We have a lot of work to do over the next year or so. But it will be worth it!”
Later that night, the businessman tells his wife “Do you realize what this means? We can relax! We can take life easy! We’ll be able to take that vacation you’ve been talking about!”
But his wife said; “I’ve heard this speech before.”
Besides, there was one small detail the businessman had overlooked. An artery that had once been as supple as a blade of grass was now as dry as plaster. The blood cells could barely squeeze through. Each day, while the man anxiously watched the stock market and stressfully did his work, the artery accumulated more and more plaque.
Later that night while he was hunched over the computer, his heart skipped a beat. Then another. Then another. He gasped for air. He clutched at his chest. And he fell asleep.
His wife woke at 3am wondering; “Where is he? Why isn’t he in bed yet?” She sees him slumped over his laptop. She says; “Figures. He’d rather sleep at his desk than come to bed.”
She touched his arm, and she realized how cold he was! She panicked! She called 911. They came to the house. They told her that he had a massive heart attack and that he’d already been dead for hours.
People came from all over to attend the funeral. His work buddies said; “He was a great leader! A dedicated worker! A good man!”
The company paid for the business man’s headstone. It said; “Here lies Barry: A visionary! An innovator! An entrepreneur!”
But later that night, God sent an angel to the headstone. There, the angel traced with his finger the word God had in mind to describe the life of this wealthy, successful businessman. Fool. God said; “You fool! This very night, your life will be demanded from you. Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
This is a modern version of the story Jesus tells in Luke 12. Jesus was very frank in his diagnosis. He didn’t say the man was wicked. He didn’t say the man was evil. He simply says; “You fool.”
Why does Jesus use this harsh word? The man didn’t deliberately set out to alienate his wife and kids. He didn’t deliberately choose to become a self-centered, greedy man. He never said that he didn’t believe in God. He simply devoted his life to the wrong things. He became too self-absorbed and too busy for the things that matter most.
Let’s look at the story Jesus told in Luke chapter 12
Luke 12:13-21 - 13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” 15 Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” 16 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. 17 He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ 18 Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ 21 “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”
Let me re-emphasize this last verse – “…a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.!”
Do we even know what a rich relationship with God looks like?
Two weeks ago, we talked about building our lives on a firm foundation, the foundation that began with this relationship with Jesus Christ. Let’s take a look at a few verses before that and see how to build this “rich relationship” with God.
45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. 46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”
Without having good things in our heart, we cannot have a rich relationship with God.
1. We must have and keep good things in our heart.
a. First, put Jesus Christ there – that takes care of our sin up to that point.
b. Secondly, allow God continual access – that takes care of anything that would keep us from having a rich relationship with God, i.e. sin, distractions, poor choices relating to our appropriations of our time, energy and resources. Psalm 139:23-24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
2. Once Christ has dominion over our heart and we have given God continual access, we can then begin to understand how to invest our time, talents and treasure into the obedience of God’s commandments.
a. Matthew 22:37-40 “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[f] 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Simply put – love God, love others.
b. Matthew 28:19-20 – “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,[b] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Simply put – tell others how to have a rich relationship with God.
3. It seems simple – just love God, show love to others and tell others about God. And, for most of us, we would agree those three things are good, even great. But the stark reality is we never take time to develop the ability to truly do any of them because we just don’t take the time.
a. Hebrews 9:27-28 – “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, 28 so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.”
I would like us all to accept a challenge. Let’s ask ourselves this question: If we were perfectly honest, how much time do spend preparing for eternity? This passage in Hebrew should tell us that our first priority in life should be to prepare for this appointment! How much time do you spend in things with eternal value?
It doesn’t take a genius to see that most people get it wrong – they spend all their time pursuing the things this world has to offer and miss the joy of preparing for eternity.
Jesus illustrates in our story for today, the futility of the farmer who gathers more and more so he can live the good life only to find out everything he’s gained - so one day he could live that life ends up being completely worthless because his earthly life was to end the next day!
There was a king who had all his world could afford. The thing he loved most, however, was to laugh. Once while being entertained a jester came along wishing to join in the festival of activities and also wishing to perform for him. His opportunity came and he put the best comical show together he had ever done and the king never laughed so hard.
Once the activity was all over the king wanted to hire this jester to be his personal jester. Once hired the king in humor handed him a small stick and said, "You are the most foolish man alive. When you find someone more foolish than you, then you give them this stick," and the king laughed heartily.
After many years had passed by the king lay sick on his death bed ready to go at any moment. He called for his jester, for he wanted to laugh one more time before he died. When the jester was through he asked to speak to the king personally. Once alone with the king the jester asked, "king where are you going?" The king responded, "on a far journey." The jester asked again, "and how do you plan to get there?" Again the king responded, "I don’t know." Then the jester pulled the stick from his back pocket and handed it to the king. The king was stunned and asked why he had given him the stick. The jester replied, "King, today I have found a more foolish man than I. For you see, I only trifled with the things of life, but you have trifled with things of eternity!"
What is your Relationship Status with God??
Determine to live your life developing a rich relationship with God!